Tell us about the genesis of Poppy’s Catering!
The genesis of Poppy’s actually came to be during the week that Superstorm Sandy hit and NYC was shut down. I sat at home working on a business plan, wondering if I was going to get the storefront/kitchen I had my eye on and contemplating the sanity of starting a catering company when I wasn’t even a chef! I was fortunate enough to have had my assistant Rachael on board for anything I was about to do, and was introduced to our amazing chef, Sharone, who has been with Poppy’s since day one. Once we were up and running it didn’t take long for us to secure our little foursome with our executive pastry chef, Caren. Together we have created the Poppy’s brand. Over the last four years, our team has continued to grow and we’ve expanded to two kitchens in the Cobble Hill/Columbia Street Waterfront areas of Brooklyn and have also expanded into some retail with our pop ups.
How would you describe the food you create? What is the core value represented?
The core values behind the food we create is simple, delicious, seasonal and approachable. We care about making wholesome, nourishing food that also looks beautiful. Nothing too fussy. Refined and rustic.
Most important flavor-building ingredient or combo?
We think food always needs to have a balance. Salty + sweet. Smooth + crunchy. You’ll find a lot of savory herbs in our sweets. And a lot of sharp cheeses + toasted nuts and seeds in our savory food.
Tell us about your pop-up series. How did you come up with the idea and how long have you been having them?
Our pop ups started Valentine’s Day 2015. When we expanded and took over another production kitchen a few blocks away, we were finally able to create our original space into a customer-facing, charming shop. It’s where we also work all week and host tastings with our customers. We heard that the neighborhood was wondering what we’ve been doing behind closed doors for the last few years and finally decided to let them in to try our food!
While our primary business is catering, I love that we have the opportunity to serve the community, and meet customers face to face. I worked in restaurants for years, and I love that personal interaction. It also gives us a chance to invite our clients who don’t need a formal tasting to come, hang out and experience our food.
It’s been a gathering space for friends and family as well as the neighborhood. And I love meeting some amazing followers who make this a destination while visiting New York.
What kind of dishes do you offer in your pop-ups? What’s popular?
We sell an assortment of frittatas, tartines, seasonal baked goods, sandwiches, grains, rotisserie chicken, soups, coffee, etc. I would say it’s all popular considering we often sell out! But while we have a formula of what types of foods we sell, the menu does change each time we’re open, keeping our customers on their toes.
But when we started selling buttermilk biscuits with homemade seasonal jams, I’ve overheard quite a few Southerners proclaim they are the best biscuits they’ve had north of the Mason-Dixon line.
How do people find out when the pop-ups are open?
We will post about it on Instagram (@poppyscatering) and will also send out an email to customers on our mailing list.
How have the pop-ups evolved over time?
We really didn’t have that much retail experience when we first started them. So every item was an experiment to see what sold. I would say we’ve streamlined the offerings and have also started packaging our grains, soups + rotisserie chickens to-go for dinners! We have also hired part-time staff that can work the counter for us! That’s a big change from the early days when we just added on a sixth or seventh day of work for us.
Any plans to make them more frequent or permanent?
That’s certainly the most frequent question! We are definitely planning to grow the pop ups and make them a more weekly weekend business (Weekends at Poppys?). I do think that this neighborhood is primarily residential and love the bustle of the weekends over weekdays. Also, it makes it feel more special on the days we are open! We will be adding a few more dates this fall, so follow along to stay posted on dates.
Tell us about holiday ordering. What’s in store?
We are bringing back our pies + sides menu for Thanksgiving for a second year in a row. We offered everything but the turkey for pick-up last year and it went really well. So we’re excited to do the same this year. For everyone who had our sea salt maple buttermilk pie, it’s BACK!
We also have a great menu for drop-off and pick-up cocktail platters that will make all of your holiday entertaining easier. For any full-service events, we will custom tailor a menu to your needs!
Tips for displaying a holiday spread beautifully?
Use thoughtful color in the foods you are preparing. Make sure to grab some extra herbs and microgreens to garnish your dishes. Especially in the fall and winter, a lot of the tastiest foods tend to be a bit bland and brown in color. Those greens can help bring them to life. [Also, check out more tips on setting a holiday buffet here.]
Favorite events you’ve catered?
We catered a big event for Food52 last year that included a lot of guests from the food world. We were asked to recreate a lot of recipes from cookbooks and chefs we admire but also getting to present the food with the Poppy’s touch. It was an event that took imagination and creativity. It was challenging and ultimately everyone from our office and kitchen were hands-on at the party. I love a good event that brings us all together and that we all feel proud of. But there have been countless other favorite events, weddings, and dinner parties that I’ve loved being a part of.
Every holiday meal should include…
A cheese platter.
No-nos when it comes to holiday entertaining?
Not enough food!
Kitchen trick for home cooks that’s guaranteed to pack flavor into their dishes?
SALT! Our executive chef, Sharone, tells us to salt our pasta water like the sea. And I really believe that most home chefs shy away from salting their food properly. I’m not a professional chef, and I’ve certainly taken that trick home with me to cook a better-tasting meal!
NYC restaurants that make you swoon?
My go-to swoon-worthy restaurants are all of Andrew Tarlow’s (Marlow & Sons, Reynard’s, Roman’s, etc.). They inspire as well as comfort me with their approachable, seasonal menus. And while I’m not often found at more formal tasting-menu restaurants, our neighbors, Take Root, cooked one of the most memorable, swoon-worthy meals I’ve ever had.
Your ideal meal is… With…
A pig roast with friends and family.
Anything you would never eat?
Foods labeled “fat free”.
Any other fun projects in the works?
This has definitely been a year about getting my two feet on the ground balancing my new life as a mom and running a business. But I am excited to get into some fun new projects next year and continuing to grow our brand.